Today’s post is written by my good friend, Desiree Talbert. Whenever the two of us Skype together, the topic of parenting usually arises (given that we both have young children who are in the business of giving us gray hair and mini heart attacks). After one such conversation, Desiree shared this devotional with me and gave me permission to put it on this blog. These are convicting truths, especially when I think of some recent moments when I sinned against my children and just let it go, assuming that they wouldn’t remember the action anyway. This is a dangerous habit to fall into and I needed this reminder. I hope that it encourages your heart as well!
My daughter, Chloe, is now 6 years old. Our time with these little ones rushes along, but there are moments that we hold onto and remember fondly. For me, one of these moments was a few years ago, when Chloe apologized spontaneously for the first time. It was one of the sweetest things I have heard come out of her mouth.
Paul, her younger brother, had just tried to give her a toy, and she had responded with a belligerent, “No! I don’t want that!” and a huff. For some reason, I hadn’t said anything to her about her unkind behavior, but just a few minutes later, I heard her: “Didi [little brother, in Chinese], I was impatient with you when you tried to give that to me. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”
It’s not surprising that her first apology was for impatience—it’s not an uncommon problem for her. It’s a common problem for me, too. But it encouraged my heart because that is the thing that I apologize for the most. She is following my example—her apology was almost word-for-word what I have said to her on occasion. I don’t apologize as often as I should, and this was a good reminder to me to be a good example to the kids.
We need to apologize to our children. We need to do this to restore our relationship when we have done things that hurt them and make them feel unloved. But another reason that it’s important to apologize is that they are learning appropriate behavior from us. They most likely recognize our authority, but depending on their age, they may not completely recognize when we have behaved in a wrong way.
In fact, even as adults, we can look at authority figures in our lives and sometimes assume their behavior is acceptable because of their position. I still remember a time, back in college, when I was working in a special Bible club ministry for neighborhood children. Most of the kids were from rough backgrounds and didn’t regularly attend the church that hosted the club. They were rowdy, and eager for snacks; it took all of our energy to guide them through activities and show God’s love to them.
One night, while I was walking down a basement hallway, I heard one of the men in the church yell at one of the kids for running up the staircase. His words were loud and harsh; I was quite shocked by his tone. We were there, trying to share truth and love with these kids, and I felt like he had just undone all of that in under a minute. As the man walked around the corner, I was even more shocked to discover that it was the pastor. I was an outsider—a visiting helper, not a member of the church. I spent a long time that night wondering how his example affected the people in his assembly. Did they know it was wrong, or did some people think that was an acceptable way to speak to children?
I think we can see a similar dynamic happening in the Good Samaritan:
Luke 10:31–32 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
In one commentary, Joel B. Green explains the influence of the authority in this situation: “Within their world, their association with the temple commends [the priest and the Levite] as persons of exemplary piety whose actions would be regarded as self-evidently righteous. … Accordingly, their failure to assist the anonymous man would have been laudable in the eyes of many.”
We can also become confused by our leaders’ bad behavior. We often look to the leaders in our life to be models for how to be Christlike in the real world. When our leaders sin, we can be tempted to justify their behavior, especially if it makes us feel more comfortable with our own.
Our children are doing the same thing. When we speak harshly, or become impatient, or get worried about something rather than trusting the Lord, we might be giving them the impression that these are acceptable actions. We aren’t going to be perfect, so we must be ready to acknowledge when we haven’t modeled Christlikeness. Whenever we don’t acknowledge this, we run the risk of giving our kids the wrong idea.
We may be tempted to think that apologizing will diminish our authority. It won’t—our authority in their lives comes from God. The only thing that will really be diminished is our pride.
We aren’t going to be perfect examples for them. But we don’t need our failure to end in confusion. Instead, we can use it as an opportunity to justify God rather than ourselves. If we have recognized that our behavior was wrong, let’s not ignore it or rationalize it. Instead, let’s be honest with ourselves and with them, giving them a better example to follow.
 Green, J. B. (1997). The Gospel of Luke (p. 431). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.